However, the Elections of 2008 have enlightened me to certain levels of thinking within the African-American community, not all favorable (and I’m sure not to win any friends or influence people with this piece).
The day after the election, I arrived at my job as an adult education instructor like always. As I entered the building, I found our most mature and studious student, “Mr. ‘H,’” a mid-50-something-year-old African-American, waiting as usual for us instructors. Walking to the classroom, we engaged in a semi-light conversation about the obvious and its historical significance. During our exchange, Mr. H revealed that the 2008 election was the first time he had voted…ever. His excuse (as opposed from a reason) was that before this past Tuesday, he always thought that no matter who he voted for, “them jokers would always do what they wanted to do.”
Later in the day, I took a minute to read my copy of the latest edition of Ebony Magazine (November 2008). As I opened it up, there was a picture of Ebony’s president and CEO, along with the magazine’s printed endorsement of Barack Obama for president, something the magazine hasn’t done in its entire near 60 year history.
What is troubling about the cumulative effect of these experiences is that they convey the idea that, before now, African-Americans never had a stake in the electoral process. Mr. H’s insistence that his vote never counted before now because of past candidates’ propensity to ignore the black vote has been no doubt shared by many in the black community. While it’s no secret that such feelings are shared in many segments within the black community (thus causing dangerous level of apathy when it comes to our voice being heard), try applying such a mindset to the elderly, who vote their interests in such dependably large numbers and with such unison, that no politician even dares to threaten to retool, revamp, or even talk about its need to do either to social security…despite the fact that all indications are that the current rate of spending will cause its demise within the next 2 decades. While black thinking doesn’t have to be monolithic, its collective voice should be, as most African-Americans’ fates—despite the success of people like BET’s founder Robert Johnson, television mogul Oprah Winfrey and others—are intertwined. But sadly, fragmented political thinking along ideological lines, represented by the likes of Ward Connerly, Michael Steele, Cynthia McKinney and others, tends to give the impression that the black community’s voice is not only not unified, but neither are its interests. Will Obama’s election change this? Probably not, as I have seen black ideologues left and right-of-center not only come out against Obama’s election during his candidacy, but have already greeted his ascendancy to office with harsh vocal skepticism and even derision. The more things change…
California’s Proposition 8:
Many gay rights and other activists were appalled at the large numbers of black and Latino support for the controversial ballot measure to amend the state’s constitution to limit the definition of marriage to the traditional union of a man and a woman.
Although I personally feel that marriage is pretty much dead as both an idea and an institution given the current divorce rate and its ever-eroding lack of sanctity in the human heart, it’s hard to imagine that the Founding Fathers could have imagined that human beings of the same sex would ever want to be recognized under the laws and ideas of traditional co-habitation. Granted the fact that blacks themselves were at one time considered “three-fifths of a human being” under the U.S. Constitution, the inherent and obvious argument used by pro-gay activists that such similar rights were eventually extended to African-Americans doesn’t hold water due to the fact that considering black less than a full human being was done only out of a compromise with Southern lawmakers, and not out of the belief that blacks were not (biologically) human beings. But the centuries-long legacy of discrimination of blacks that followed the nation’s founding further confounds these activists as to how and why the black community could come out in numbers of between 70%-80%.
However, if these activists really want to understand why blacks in particular came out in droves against the amendment proposition, all they really need to is look at the current state and history of the family in black America.
In terms of what contributes to the current instability within traditional family unit, African-Americans tend to lead the pack in most categories: teenage pregnancy, single parenting rates, divorce rates, poverty, unemployment, rates of marriage, etc. The last thing that the black community needs is for a re-defining of the traditional family unit driving them further behind the rest of the nation in terms of stability. And within the black community, such a revision of such a traditional notion is all but impossible given the strength and reverence by which the Christian Church and its doctrinal values are held. With respect to the “anyone-who-loves-another-is-a-family” mindset, these activists really need to try and understand African-Americans before they can even begin to impose such a mandate on an already devastated community. It’s not hard to figure out; the strengthening of gay families would mean the further erosion of the black family in a manner of speaking.
Will black support for Proposition change the state of the black family any time soon, probably not likely. But it’s a small measure to defend what little does remain of the traditional family therein. The more things change…
One would think with Obama’s meteoric rise to political superstardom and highest office that his image, including his sense of fashion would rub off on black males.
Did I miss something? When did “Ghetto Stupid” become a fashion trend? What I’m talking about is the trend of sagging pants, “saggin’” as it’s popularly known as. It’s a notion that has divided the black community…some black males choose to sag, while most older, more sensible types choose not to. The style (or lack of it) has even crossed over into segments of the white and Latino communities, no surprise considering that other formerly exclusively black cultural trends have historically crossed over such as music and dreadlocks.
At the risk of sounding like my father, can someone explain to me why it’s even done? It makes no sense beyond the psychological need to become a part of in-group thinking.
I have tried to come up with a logical way to try to create a level of consistent thinking when it comes to my personal dislike and revulsion of this particular trend. I can’t say that it simply offends my (and many others’) fashion sensibilities because the first thing someone would say in defense of the right to “sag” is “what about this group or that group?” And sadly, they would have a decent defense. I mean, doesn’t the gothic sub-culture offends older whites? What about the manner of dress associated with punk-rockers? Heavy metalers? Etc.
Lacking strength in the logic and reason approach, I’ll try the pragmatic approach. Many police officers have publicly stated that they want criminals and would-be criminals to sport the baggy look; the better for police to catch fleeing suspects who were trying to maintain their sense of style with sagging, ankle-bound trousers. In fact, the ‘net is full of stories of criminals tripped up by their sense of style. Now I’m no great fan of the criminal element, but if anyone—criminal or not—doesn’t see the practical side of not wearing your pants to the point where your attention is divided between something as simple as running/walking and holding your pants up with one hand (here’s a clue Einstein...the belt does that for you), then maybe someone should take you off the street so the rest of us do not laugh ourselves into a coronary at such a ridiculous spectacle.
Maybe someone Up There does love us and seeks to protect us from such a fate; cities such as Flint, Michigan and Atlanta, Georgia and others have made it illegal for pants to hang off the body in such a way as to display underwear publicly. Hard to believe that such an idiotic trend would spur the need for even more idiotic laws. But sadly, despite the increase in arrests, the practical side of black males keeping their pants up at the intended waist level hasn’t taken.
So, since I have no logical or practical arguments, I’ll simply become my father and say to all those who sag that you look stupid! Pull your damned pants up! You’re walking around with pants hanging off you’re a**es and you’re wearing a belt…how dumb is that?
Take a page from the Obama playbook. You want to be successful and be taken seriously? Start with a sense of style. Walking around, trying not to fit in? And you wonder why the unemployment rate is so high among black males? You look like trouble. Yeah, I know that you do it to “keep it real.” Real stupid!
Obama, here’s hoping that, in much the same way you addressed the issue of race and the need for black fathers to step up to the plate to take care of their children, that you address the need to make pulling pants up a national priority in America. In fact, I would urge you to move it ahead of the financial crisis!
Will Obama’s successful election change the image of the black male in America? Probably not any time soon. The more things change…